Guest blogger Cindy Vanderbrink finds a lot of strengths in Andrew Eiden’s performance in Lesile Connor’s newest.
Mason Buttle sweats a lot, has dyslexia, and is bullied by his classmates. He lives with his grandmother and uncle on a fallow orchard which is also where Mason’s best friend Benny Kilmartin died in a fall from a treehouse. Naive Mason does not realize that he is suspected in Benny’s death by the community and in particular, by Lieutenant Baird, the local police detective. Mason’s life begins to look up when Calvin Chumsky moves to town. The two boys couldn’t be more physically different, but soon become fast friends. Calvin and Mason spend time constructing a hideout in an old root cellar when not being chased by the neighborhood bullies. When Calvin goes missing, Lieutenant Baird again suspects Mason of wrongdoing.
It’s very challenging for any narrator to truly identify a character’s voice. But award-winning narrator Andrew Eiden is Mason Buttle. His narration isn’t showy, but expresses Mason’s naiveté and he gives him a earnest, natural voice. Eiden’s measured cadence and pace keep the listener engaged. When truths are revealed, Eiden’s emotional performance makes Mason’s realization all the more heartbreaking.
There are some problems with Eiden’s performance. Bad boy Matt Drinker, who mercilessly bullies Mason and Calvin, sounds like a jerky surfer dude which feels too literal. And female characters sound a bit too similar. Additionally, the technical issues are troubling, as there are numerous pops and audible breaths throughout the production. Regardless, this absorbing title is sure to be included on “best of 2018” lists.
The Truth as told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor, read by Andrew Eiden. 6 hours 30 minutes, 6 CDs. HarperCollins, 2018.